Army prosecuting soldier for attempting suicide


In a nondescript conference room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside listened last week as an Army prosecutor outlined the criminal case against her. The charges: attempting suicide and endangering the life of another soldier while serving in Iraq.

Her hands trembled as Maj. Stefan Wolfe, the prosecutor, argued that Whiteside, now a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed, should be court-martialed. After seven years of exemplary service, the Army reservist faces the possibility of life in prison if she is tried and convicted.

Military psychiatrists at Walter Reed who examined Whiteside, 25, after she recovered from her self-inflicted gun wound diagnosed her with a severe mental disorder, possibly triggered by the stresses of a war zone. But Whiteside’s superiors considered her mental illness “an excuse” for criminal conduct, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Basically, soldier volunteers to work in Iraq rather than Walter Reed, gets high marks for performance, has a conflicts with a certain male superior along with rest of the women in her unit, degenerates into panic attacks, medication, spiraled out of control, goes nuts and threatens another soldiers, and shoots herself in the stomach.

It was Whiteside’s commanders in this unit, a captain and a colonel, who drew up criminal charges against her in April. The accusations included assault on a superior commissioned officer, aggravated assault, kidnapping, reckless endangerment, wrongful discharge of a firearm, communication of a threat and two attempts of intentional self-injury without intent to avoid service.

Just because you are sick doesn’t mean that you can threaten others with no consequence. Like any other case where someone loses it and does stupid things it is up to the court to decide how severe a penalty is appropriate. It works that way in civillian life, why shouldn’t it work that way here?

Unless you are going to argue that it’s ok to threaten/try to kill others with no consequences.

Ok…that’s fine…but what about the rest of the bullshit charges? Way to only address one issue in a larger argument.

Erik J.

Which of the charges are bullshit? I know nothing other than the details in this thread.

The accusations included assault on a superior commissioned officer, aggravated assault, kidnapping, reckless endangerment, wrongful discharge of a firearm, communication of a threat and two attempts of intentional self-injury without intent to avoid service.

If anything, the suicide attempt that makes the headline is just addressing one part of the larger argument. Compared to aggravated assault, assault on a superior commissioned officer, etc, that really seems like the least of her problems.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to her story that makes it difficult to judge outright, but I think I’d need an article at least as biased in the prosecution’s favor to round this one out. She may well be insane to the point where her actions are grounds for becoming a mental patient instead of a prisoner, but it’s hardly an open and shut case.

I am not sure that the mentally ill should be held accountable for their actions, you know, being mentally ill and all.

Yeah, and that’s the real story here, potentially. Suicide attempts and even general malingering are rarely followed through to court martial; clearly it’s the other charges that are really driving her prosecution. Her apparently excellent record brings up more questions than it answers.

Again, it’s up to the judge/judges to decide whether her mental illness is legitimate, and if so what impact, if any, that should have on guilt or sentence.

In other words, take the military out of this scenario and put it in a civillian court and it’s just like what normally happens - charges are filed, and the situation is considered.

I don’t disagree with you, but I’m not sure what I said that could be considered as such. Obviously, I’m not presuming to replace the judgment of the court with my internet post. Were you just expanding on what you said earlier or do you see some conflict in what you and I have said on this matter?

From the article, it reads like she pulled a gun on someone who walked in on her attepting to commit suicide, then ran off and shot herself. Theoretically, yeah, you could file assault, but it seems rather insane in this case. I can’t figure out where they got kidnapping.

Waving a gun at a superior officer in a lot of contexts opens you up for getting the book thrown at you. Even merely hitting them can accomplish that, and unlike in a civilian court the charges can stick when presented properly. Moreover, in some cases they should, because it’s not necessarily analogous to civilian crime.

The only thing that isn’t standard is her having to go public and try to scandalize her way out of this rather than the military simply trying to make this go away by pretending it never happened and handing out honorable discharges, which appears to be the SOP for most people that are more trouble than they are worth for whatever reason. She may end up proving insane enough to rationalize the actions she took, inasmuch as such a thing is possible, or she may not. I still don’t see the “wow”.

For sure. The military relies on discipline and respecting the chain of command. General insubordination will get you into trouble. A gun? Yeah, that’s not going to be pretty.

There are reasons the military is strict on these issues. It may seem heavy handed, but things would fall apart if disrespecting superiors was tolerated.

It’s a “wow” to me because I can’t figure out what possible point it serves.

On the deterrence side, it’s not like “don’t go insane” is a conscious decision people make. An actual prosectuion would also stigmatize mental illness to even further, making people more likely to hide problems they’re having until its too far gone.

On the punishment side, I don’t see any point to punishing the insane at all. Give her some time in mandatory mental treatment, sure, but they apparently aren’t interested in that.

On the cynical side, the military doesn’t have to pay benefits and it’ll lesson the damage on the probably mysogonist superior.

Sorry, but you seemed to be agreeing with Athryn’s “mentally ill should not be held accountable” statement. My point is that everyone seems to be jumping to the conclusion that the decision to send her away for years has already been made and I’m trying to point out that what we have are charges that a judge will still consider and then take the mental illness into account. It’s just like in a civilian court: if you go insane and threaten someone with a gun, there will likely be charges filed before a decision about your mental state is made.

As for the point it serves, there are several issues:

First, this woman refused to resign and is holding out for an honorable discharge despite all that has happened.

Second, she admits to realizing she had problems before her service started and later but choose not to do anything to deal with them.

Third, she has a version of what happend in Iraq and others have their version.

Look, if the Army gave her the honorable discharge and gave her reasonable pschiatric care (which I guess is what Jason and Athryn believe should happen) that still doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be blamed if she lost it again in civillian life and actually killed someone. Instead they’d be criticized for letting her out without penalty.

Well it’s not guaranteed at this point:

No decision has been made on whether Whiteside’s case will proceed to court-martial.

But if they do proceed to court-martial, the prosecution will go after her for it because it’s their job.

Nice, Jason.

Woa, hold the bus. You mean if you join the service and go nuts they leave you hang out to dry? Nice…